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NCO turmoil: Statements from both sides

28 April 2014

Following our coverage of recent disputes regarding the management of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO) and the petition launched by the authors of the website www.ournco.org.uk, we have received statements from both ourNCO and the NCO board, as follows:

  • A statement from OurNCO:

‘The NCO is a wonderful and much-loved institution that has nurtured the musical talents of thousands of children and launched many professional careers. Integral to its success is the expertise and tireless support of staff, conductors, teachers, social staff, parents and numerous other givers of time and energy. These vital stakeholders are being entirely ignored as the NCO board attempts to drive through fundamental changes to NCO. At the heart of the problem is the fact that the current members of the board appoint themselves, make decisions among themselves, refuse to publish agendas or notes of their meetings, make decisions behind closed doors, are wholly unaccountable and will not consult. For any organisation, especially a children’s music charity, this is quite wrong. For over two years a group of concerned stakeholders, including NCO parents and musicians, has been attempting quietly to persuade the board that it must change and become accountable. Every argument and suggestion has been dismissed out of hand. We had no choice but to go public to protect the future of an organisation we care so much about.

‘That 1750-plus supporters have signed the petition so quickly shows how overwhelming is the support for constitutional change. However, the board has not made one statement in acknowledgement that there is a problem at all. It appears content to issue all kinds of material attempting to show it works well, or, quite outrageously, to claim that the successes delivered by NCO staff are down to its own efforts. The board has made a number of misleading claims in an attempt to discredit opposition to it, such that [NCO founder] Vivienne Price is attempting to wrest back control or that Roger Clarkson retains sole responsibility for musical matters. The record has been put straight on www.ournco.org.uk and Facebook. The board is using its energies to attack opposition to it rather than discuss rationally how change can be managed in the interests of all.

‘There is no argument to be made against openness and accountability. The continuation of NCO’s wonderful legacy for future children is too important to be put at risk at the hands of the self-appointed and self-interested. That is why we are calling for resignations and reform.’

 

  • A Statement from the NCO board:

‘Only five years ago, the NCO was in financial straits. The board at that time fought long and hard to recover the situation, as things just could not continue as they were. Their efforts gave the NCO enough money to continue on a day-to-day basis and to invest for our future. All through this difficult period the board worked to keep Vivienne’s vision alive, because each and every one of them supports the NCO wholeheartedly. We were able to give more children the opportunity to transform their lives through music, and now we offer more bursaries than ever before. For this, all members of the board, even those who have joined recently, have been described as ‘bean counters’, as being ‘secretive’, and as ‘lacking in understanding’. On the contrary, the current board, which counts among its number an alumna, music professionals and NCO parents, do this work voluntarily. They understand exactly how to protect Vivienne’s vision and Vivienne and Roger’s transformational teaching of children in our modern professional world.

‘We have been accused of not listening. This is just not true. We have initiated a consultation programme with all interested groups, and have drawn up the NCO’s first full business plan based on this feedback. The consultation programme involved the NCO staff in forming an initial business plan, and engagement with music tutors, parents and social staff has been feeding into the plan, something not done before in the NCO’s history. We have been working on governance changes for some months, even before the launch of ourNCO.com. We are proud to have moved away from a model where trustees were only appointed if they had personal connections and could serve indefinitely, to one where trustees are recruited by open advertisement and for a restricted period, following Charity Commission guidelines. New relationships have been developed with organisations and new support found from funders, and we continue to be extremely grateful to everyone who has given in the past. All this is now at risk. We remain deeply sorry that Vivienne is so upset. If some things have not been done well, we are sorry – but we have made our very best efforts. As a board we remain confident that the decisions that have been made have been made with proper consultation and will ensure that the NCO, founded by Vivienne, will continue to go from strength to strength.’

Youth Music Invests in Education

25 April 2014

The National Foundation for Youth Music announced this week that it will be awarding grants totalling £1.2m to ten pioneering music education projects.

The funding will be invested in developing partnerships between schools and music education providers who do not usually work in a school environment. This ‘Exchanging Notes’ initiative will be monitored over a four-year period by a team from Birmingham City University that will evaluate the musical and educational outcomes of these new partnerships.

Projects benefitting from this funding include Opera North working with Winifred Holtby Academy in Hull, Kinetika Bloco working with St Gabriel’s College in London, and Derbyshire Music Education Hub working across the county’s Virtual Schools Network. The young people involved are those believed to be at risk of low attainment, disengagement or educational exclusion. Through this initiative it is hoped that participants will be empowered to develop their own creative life skills, using formal and informal music-making to improve their general learning.

Youth Music’s executive Matt Griffiths says: ‘In designing the Exchanging Notes programme, we encouraged schools, music organisations and local music education hubs to work together. We look forward to the outcome of this action research project with great excitement as it is the first time such a rigorous study of combined approaches between schools and music providers, who normally work in out-of-school settings, has been done. The results may well turn out to be of enormous significance to stimulate fresh thinking in music education and support the aspirations set out in the National Plan for Music Education.’

120th BBC Proms Unveiled

24 April 2014

Details of the 2014 BBC Proms were released this afternoon, promising two months, 92 concerts, 12 world premieres and 10 newly-featured international ensembles amongst this year’s exciting line-up of events.

 

To mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One the Proms will be reflecting on the music, musicians and musical legacy of the Great War. Collaborating with the National Theatre for the first time, the War Horse Prom (3 August) features life-size puppets from the west end production, as well as the modern day premiere of Sir Henry Wood’s recently-discovered New War Hymn and a performance by Gareth Malone’s Proms Military Wives Choir. The War Horse Prom will also be forming the basis of this year’s Proms Plus Family Orchestra and Chorus, where families can play music alongside professional musicians.

 

The BBC Proms has expanded its educational Proms Plus series for this summer, with more free workshops, talks and events at the Royal College of Music that serve to complement the main BBC Proms concerts. Proms Plus Intros, which give the audience an opportunity to learn more about the evening’s repertoire, will be focusing on global classical music. These sessions include a spotlight on Turkey (29 July), the Czech Republic (24 August), Hungary (25 August), South Korea (27 August) and Singapore (2 September).

For the first time, both Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions will be performed at the Proms. Singers of all levels of experience (including none!) will be able to join members of the BBC Singers in workshops before hearing these works performed at the Proms.

The 80th birthdays of two of Britain’s most important living composers, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, will be celebrated alongside significant birthdays of some of the country’s leading conductors. The Proms Plus Composer Portrait will allow audiences to get to know more about some of the living composers whose works are being performed, through in-depth interviews with Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies, David Horne and Sally Beamish.

For full details of this year’s BBC Proms season, click here.

Tickets go on sale from 9am on Saturday 17 May 2014 via bbc.co.uk/proms or 0844 209 7353, and in person at the Royal Albert Hall.

Distinguished Musician Award for Julian Lloyd Webber

24 April 2014

This year’s prestigious Distinguished Musician Award was presented last week to British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, in recognition of his great dedication to the world of music education.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) presented the award in partnership with Classic FM. Both partners were impressed by Julian Lloyd Webber’s passion for bringing music to young people from all backgrounds, as well his successful campaigning to promote music as a respected area of study. As chairman of Sistema England, Julian has helped to inspire thousands of primary schoolchildren across the country, and his work as a key supporter of the ISM ‘Bacc for the Future’ campaign played an important role in affecting a change in government policy over the place of music in the English Baccalaureate proposals.

The Distinguished Musician Award has been recognising outstanding contributions to musical life in the UK since 1976. However, this is only the third time that the award has highlighted achievements in the field of music education.

Chief executive of the ISM Deborah Annetts commented: 'I’m delighted that Julian’s work in music education is recognised through this award. He is passionate in his belief that every child, regardless of background, deserves the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and tirelessly devotes himself to campaigning issues alongside his busy performing and recording career.'

Guildhall to award its own degrees

23 April 2014

The Privy Council of the United Kingdom has granted Taught Degree-Awarding Powers to The Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

The Guildhall School’s bachelors and master’s degrees were initially validated by Kent University, with City University London becoming sole validator in 2002. In addition to granting Guildhall the right to award its own degrees, the Privy Council’s decision means that the School is now also free to launch a new range of academic programmes, which is one of the aims for the School’s new state of the art facilities at Milton Court.

Professor Barry Ife, principal of the Guildhall School, said: ‘There is an increasing expectation among students, stakeholders, peer institutions and other agencies in this country and abroad that highly-respected institutions should have gained academic autonomy. I am absolutely delighted that after several years of hard work on quality assurance, the School has been officially recognised by the Privy Council in this way.’

It is expected that the School will award its first degrees at its graduation ceremony in the autumn of 2015.


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